Michael Winner had directed Charles Bronson in the first two Death Wish films to great success, so it would go without saying that if Golan Globus, those legendary producers of some of the finest eighties movies in history, could team them up for a third and milk the franchise name for all it was worth, they'd make it happen. Bronson, with his career starting to head down hill at this point, begrudgingly agreed and this would prove to be his last team up the accomplished English director.
Death Wish 3 finds Paul Kersey back in New York City, this time to visit his old friend Charlie. But when Kersey arrives at Charlie's apartment, he finds his friend laying on the floor dying, the victim of a sadistic gang of hoodlums who rule the area. The police show up shortly after Kersey arrives on the scene and they take him down to the station and lock him up, assuming he had something to do with the murder.
After kicking the snot out of some of his fellow prisoners, Kersey is taken in to talk to the chief who recognizes him as the vigilante who had been operating in the city years ago. He decides to let him go, no questions asked, and to turn a blind eye to his special brand of justice if Kersey can help clean up the neighborhood. It seems that despite the fact that the police have upped patrols by fifteen percent, that crime continues to escalate. The chief figures Kersey can have an impact on the gang that's responsible for the trouble in a way that the police cannot.
Kersey heads back to the apartment where Charlie was murdered and takes up residence there, befriending the seniors and immigrants who live in the building and striking up a romance with the lovely public defense attorney who follows him around. But when one of Kersey's new friends dies from a brutal rape inflicted on her by the gang and then his new girlfriend is blown up and killed, he takes off the kid gloves and starts using those guns that he's been building out of mail order parts to get his revenge against the no good punks who have gone way, way too far.
Despite the fact that the movie is full of technical goof ups (raining outside in one shot, not raining the next shot, visible squibs, technical flaws in regards to the rocket launcher, etc) the movie is still a lot of fun. Cameo appearances by a pre-Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure Alex Winter, a blink and you'll miss it walk on by Barbie Wilde (the female Cenobite Hellraiser II – Hellbound), and a pre-Star Trek – The Next Generation appearance from Marina Sirtis make the movie fun from a celebrity spotting stand point.
But really, when it's all boiled down, the real star of the show (aside from Bronson, of course) is the unreal amount of violence that the filmmakers were able to cram into the last half hour of the movie. I literally lost count of all the people who are shot, blown up, stabbed, beaten, pushed off of rooftops, and just generally maimed during the films finale. The last sequence was so out of control that the film was actually hit with an X rating by the MPAA when it was first subjected to classification, though this was later successfully appealed.
MGM's release of Death Wish 3 is presented unmated and full frame, which is obviously not it's intended aspect ratio. There doesn't seem to be too much picture information missing from the sides but there is obviously too much on the top and bottom in a few scenes. Matting issues aside, the picture quality is quite good with the only real issue being that some of the darker scenes exhibit a lot of picture noise that might be grain or dirt. Other than that, colors are good and there aren't any edge enhancement problems with the transfer. It sure would have been nice to have this in anamorphic widescreen though….
The audio is presented in English in a Dolby Digital Mono sound mix with removable subtitles available in English, French, and Spanish. Not much to discuss here - the mono track is clean and clear and easy to understand without any hiss or distortion problems really occurring at all.
Just like the other two Death Wish DVDs that are out from MGM, the only extra on the disc is the theatrical trailer for the feature, which is presented fullscreen.
Death Wish 3 fails miserably as a serious action/crime/drama like the first two entries in the series were, but it works marvelously as an over the top 'balls out' action film. The last half hour of the film is pure b-movie delirium and it's worth the price of admission alone just for the rocket launcher scene. Despite the fact that the disc is not presented in it's original theatrical aspect ratio, the picture quality is good and the disc is recommended until a better version comes along.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.